Montana Outdoors

July 23, 2009

It’s that time of year again.

Filed under: Montana, Outdoors, Rural fire department, Wildland fires — montucky @ 10:52 pm
From the National Weather Service website: “A RED FLAG WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT UNTIL 6 AM MDT FRIDAY.
THE ATMOSPHERE HAS BECOME UNSTABLE TODAY WITH THUNDERSTORMS DEVELOPING NEAR THE IDAHO AND CANADIAN BORDERS. ADDITIONAL THUNDERSTORMS WILL DEVELOP AND MOVE EAST ACROSS NORTHWEST MONTANA OVERNIGHT. THESE THUNDERSTORMS ARE CAPABLE OF PRODUCING SIGNIFICANT AMOUNTS OF LIGHTNING…RESULTING IN NEW LIGHTNING STARTS ACROSS PORTIONS OF NORTHWEST MONTANA. IN ADDITION…THESE STORMS DO NOT HAVE MUCH IN THE WAY OF RAINFALL ASSOCIATED WITH THEM DUE TO THE DRY LOWER ATMOSPHERE. DRIER CONDITIONS NEAR THE SURFACE IS ALSO CONDUCIVE TO GUSTY ERRATIC WINDS THAT CAN BE PRODUCED BY THESE THUNDERSTORMS.
PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS…
A RED FLAG WARNING IS INTENDED TO ALERT LAND MANAGERS TO EXPECT WEATHER CONDITIONS ALONG WITH SUFFICIENTLY DRY FUELS THAT WILL SIGNIFICANTLY INCREASE FIRE DANGER.”

As I recall, the last time we had a red flag warning was in July of 2007 and about two weeks later the Chippy Creek Fire started. It burned 150 square miles.

In addition, the forecast is for dry thunderstorms through Sunday. It may be a long weekend!

Wildland fire gear

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26 Comments »

  1. I will pray for everyone’s safety in that area and that fires do NOT start!

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    Comment by Stacey — July 24, 2009 @ 2:04 am

    • We hope they won’t either, but certainly some will. It’s a matter of where they will be and if we can get people to them early enough. We had a pretty good lightning storm about 4 this morning but it had a little rain with it and so far I haven’t heard of any fire starts. Sometimes it takes a few days after a lightning strike to get a fire going big enough to be detected.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — July 24, 2009 @ 10:04 am

  2. Hopefully, fires will not spark. That is a neat photo of fire gear with the boots up front!:)

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    Comment by Anna Surface — July 24, 2009 @ 6:32 am

    • Those are the basics. I consider the boots to be the most important. It’s all ready to go now at a moment’s notice.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — July 24, 2009 @ 10:06 am

  3. Hopefully nothing develops. And if it does, I pray for everyone’s safety.

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    Comment by scienceguy288 — July 24, 2009 @ 5:09 pm

    • So far, so good. It’s still a long time before the fire season is over. Thanks for your concern!

      Like

      Comment by montucky — July 24, 2009 @ 6:28 pm

  4. For many years I fought fires – God forbid should you need to set up your “shake n’bake”! It is a long time till fire season is over. So far so good though!

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    Comment by Maureen — July 24, 2009 @ 7:09 pm

    • “shake n’bake”: It’s one of those things you always lug around, hoping you never need it! I’m always driving either a brush truck of a water tender so I’m better off, but with wildfires you don’t always know I guess. I’d still much rather fight them than structure fires!

      It’s sure dry on the south-facing slopes already. Our area had 5 small starts in last night’s storm, all for the F.S. guys, nothing in the area I help cover.

      The boots in the photo have a history, by the way. I’m still using them for fire duty, but I bought them and fought fires in them in the summer of 1960. Pretty good boots! Made by Buffalo, now owned by White.

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      Comment by montucky — July 24, 2009 @ 7:46 pm

      • I noticed your “Whites”! The boot of choice in the FS. Yours are in good shape for having been in use longer than I’ve been alive 🙂

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        Comment by Maureen — July 25, 2009 @ 8:41 am

        • I love those boots! I plan to write a story about them this winter and send it in to the White company. Next summer will complete their 50th year.

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          Comment by montucky — July 25, 2009 @ 6:50 pm

  5. that is a very moving photograph. hope that’s the most action that gear sees in a looong time!!

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    Comment by kcjewel — July 24, 2009 @ 8:44 pm

    • Thanks! That would be nice, but we’re now getting into wildfire season and it will likely get a lot of use soon. Should start seeing at least one a week. I’m just glad we have some very good equipment now that wasn’t available years ago!

      Like

      Comment by montucky — July 24, 2009 @ 8:57 pm

  6. I certainly hope the best for your area this season. So you are a volunteer firefighter that helps when there are fires in your region? Wow, that must be frightening. Stay safe.

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    Comment by Candace — July 24, 2009 @ 9:50 pm

    • Thanks! Yes, I’m a volunteer firefighter working for the local Rural Fire Department. We respond to structure fires and wildfires in our area and also traffic accidents. (In general, anything bad that happens to people or property.) It’s always interesting and not always pleasant, but necessary.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — July 24, 2009 @ 10:43 pm

  7. Thanks, Terry (that’s right, isn’t it?) for visiting my blog and leaving nice comments. 😀

    My late DH and I survived the really bad fires that started in what? July ’96? and lasted for a couple of months. This was when we lived in NC WA State at Leavenworth. The fires included the west side of Lake Chelan. The fire in Plains joined the Chelan burn. Then the Tumwater Canyon (Hwy #2) and the Plains fire joined. The Icicle River Canyon fire joined the Tumwater Canyon fire and then roared on over to Blewett Pass Hwy, and on down towards Cashmere and towards Wenatchee. Tumwater Canyon and Icicle Canyon were pretty well burned out. I would imagine the other areas were too, but I never got to go back to see.

    Since you know this area, you know we are talking about mountains and whole ranges afire. Some of these places are inaccessible except by airplanes or helicopters.

    Someone said that when the firestorms got fierce enough that a tree could ignite with such fierceness that the tree would actually act about like a rocket and be completely uprooted from the ground. I really doubted that tale until I saw it with my own eyes. The RV park that my late DH and I managed has a view straight up into the Icicle Canyon where it came out into the flats of Leavenworth.

    We stood out in our driveway at night watching the fires in the canyon. This is where we saw the tree “blow up” and act like a rocket (well, for least a moment or two).

    Fires came right down to the edge of town. Many homes where the mountains go straight up from their back yards had fire trucks parked in their yards. Hwy 2 was closed for weeks. At one time, we had no way out if there was a real need as all the roadways out were blocked. We traveled highway #2 all the time headed to west Everett, or east to Wenatchee. It was really strange to see things we’d never seen before in the canyon. Without the trees and shrubbery, we could actually see huge waterfall up near the top of the canyon.

    We were ringed in Leavenworth with those fires for several weeks. Some of them were never put out, going up into the pristine country only to be extinguished by the heavy rain and snow that fall/winter.

    The Wenatchee River, which runs through Leavenworth, ran warm enough that it killed the salmon eggs (and I would imagine others). The helicopters were lucky in the fact they had the river right there to fill up their buckets.

    Our city was like a city under siege with military and Humvees. That was about the only traffic you could see. Fire fighters from Canada, Main, Florida and states in between came with their units to help fight the fires.

    We had many units of helicopters fighting. Some were the loggers who were set up at our RV Park who were “scripted” to fight the fires.

    I hope and pray that big fires never happen. Dry storms are notorious for forest fires. Another couple (the lady who did the sketches on my blog) and we were over in Montana one time fishing (about Aug. ’84) and had decided to travel to another spot, near Phillipsburg, I believe. As we drove we had a dry storm. We were up on a small pass (the other couple knew where to go as they were from Montana), when we saw some whips of smoke rising up among the trees about a hundred yards down a steep hillside. This couple’s sons had joined up with us, so all the men rushed down with axes and shovels and stopped the fire. Then they built a rock pyramid on the road. When we came to the next town, the authorities were called and told where to go to check on the fire and to make certain it was all out. If we had not stopped, and if the men hadn’t put the fire out, it could have consumed several acres before the authorities could have arrived.

    Sorry this is long, but you know me!! 😀

    Like

    Comment by Iona — July 25, 2009 @ 3:29 am

    • I think it’s hard for someone not familiar with the northwest to understand what a big fire is like, how immense and awesome it can be. The first one I fought, in the summer of 1960 crowned out while the crew I was with was still about 5 miles away from it. It seemed as though the whole edge of the world was on fire, with the flames hundreds of feet high and the smoke plume well over 20,000 feet in the air. It was then that I got a real feel for the enormity of a big wildfire. I remember looking down at the Pulaski in my hand and thinking “and I’m supposed to put that out with this?

      Firefighting has advanced a long ways since then and yet the task can be overwhelming. Our small and fast “brush trucks” that we now use are a huge improvement because we can get to a fire start quickly and hit it hard before it can grow big. They keep a lot of big fires from ever getting going, but there are still those that start far from the roads.

      As usual, we all have our pagers on our belts and our firebags packed, hoping all the while that there won’t be a big one blowing up this year.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — July 25, 2009 @ 6:42 pm

      • From what I’ve read, your Pulaski is the fireman’s best friend. I’m certain you learned very quickly how to wield it for the best effect. It is great that we have such dedicated men, such as you, to volunteer for the fire department.

        I see on the news where the NW is heating up. Lets pray that everything is quiet this year.

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        Comment by Iona — July 27, 2009 @ 10:55 pm

        • Sometimes I still use the Pulaski more than I like to but it is an effective tool. Even on our brush trucks we carry a bunch of them.

          My hope is that the fires that come will burn the right areas. There is so much forest that really needs fire to rejuvenate it. I will be hiking in the morning into an area that is loaded with dead Lodgepole and could use a fire to clear some of that up.

          Like

          Comment by montucky — July 27, 2009 @ 11:38 pm

  8. Wow. Neat picture. Thank you and to all volunteer firefighters for the work you do.

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    Comment by Kateri — July 25, 2009 @ 7:39 am

    • Those are the basics, much the same as several decades ago. There’s lots more equipment now though and the training is far better than it used to be. There’s also more emphasis on safety too. And the good news is, there are still folks who are willing and able to go work on the fires.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — July 25, 2009 @ 6:46 pm

  9. Hope there’s nothing serious out there for you, but take care, work safely.

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    Comment by Bo — July 25, 2009 @ 2:23 pm

    • The fire fighting that we do is a little bit like wilderness hiking: usually the most dangerous part is the drive to the trailhead (or the fire).

      Like

      Comment by montucky — July 25, 2009 @ 6:48 pm

  10. Where’s my daddy in the photo???

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    Comment by Juls — July 27, 2009 @ 9:23 pm

  11. Hope it turns out to be dull year for you !!

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    Comment by Bernie Kasper — July 28, 2009 @ 4:47 pm

    • Thanks Bernie! We’ve had a little rain the past few days and that really helps this time of year. There was lightning this afternoon but (I hope) enough rain to go along with it that my pager hasn’t gone off.

      Like

      Comment by montucky — July 28, 2009 @ 8:48 pm


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